How to Manage Emotional Flooding

Are you interested in how to manage emotional flooding? Then this guide is for you!

In stressful situations, you may be vulnerable to emotional flooding. Your thoughts become blurred, and your emotions churn and swamp your mind.

Sometimes, you can name individual emotions, like fear and anger. Other times, your feelings are so mixed up and powerful that you can’t tell what they are.

Your body may also react with a pounding heart, sweaty palms, and other physiological signs of stress.

Maybe you’re fighting with a good friend or with one of your parents. Maybe you’re listening to a barrage of criticism from your boss.

Regardless of the situation, you need to figure out the best ways to manage emotional flooding. The following are several suggestions.

1) Step away

Let’s say you’re arguing with your spouse. The argument gets more heated. You’re both raising your voices. Your words become harsher and less reasonable and compassionate.

You feel a rising tide of anxiety and anger. Your thoughts are jumbled, and you feel light-headed. Your stomach is clenching.

You’re experiencing emotional flooding, and your spouse may feel the same way. A productive and loving conversation isn’t currently achievable. In this case, it may be best to call for a short break and step away.

Try not to storm out of the room. It’s helpful to explain why you need a break briefly and to commit to revisiting the topic as soon as you’re calmer.

This way, the short break doesn’t turn into a form of avoidance or stonewalling. You don’t want to give your loved one the impression that you’re refusing ever to address an issue that’s affecting you both.

Once you remove yourself from an argument, take steps to achieve greater calm. You may need to go for a short walk or call up a friend.

Another helpful tactic is heading to the bathroom and splashing water on your face.

As you’re soothing yourself, try not to think too much about the argument. Focus on what you need to do to regain some emotional equilibrium.

2) Start counting

Counting exercises are a reliable tactic for steadying your thoughts. Because counting is straightforward and familiar, it can hold your focus even when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed.

You can count to 10 or 20, or you can start with a higher number and count backwards.

To engage more of your focus, count at intervals; for instance, you can count backward for every third number.

Another exercise is to count things in your environment. Instead of getting sucked into the storm of your thoughts, you can reach out with your senses and concentrate on external reality.

For example, you can count three things you see and three sounds you hear, such as the noise of a passing car or children playing outside.

The flexibility of counting exercises is a key reason they’re useful. If you don’t have much time, you can count in your mind for several seconds.

If you have more time, you can expand your count and make it longer.

3) Get tactile

When steadying yourself against a flood of emotions, it helps to stay grounded in physical reality.

To keep yourself from getting swept away in a swirl of unfocused thoughts and feelings, try using the sensation of touch.

Keep something you can grab when feeling emotionally overwhelmed in your pocket, purse, briefcase, or backpack.

Maybe it’s a stress ball, an object you can repeatedly squeeze until your mind clears and the tension in your body eases.

Other ideas include a small plushie, a soft and squishy toy. You can find one that’s small enough for a keychain.

You can designate certain objects at home as your go-to soothers for emotional flooding. Whether it’s a pillow or a stuffed animal, you may want something you can wrap your arms around and hold tightly until your mind settles.

Another potent object to hold is ice. The sensation of ice has often been helpful to people coping with an anxiety attack. If you’re experiencing emotional flooding, try it to see if it will prove effective for you.

Also, getting tactile doesn’t mean limiting yourself to holding an object. You can also run your hands and feet over different surfaces.

Wriggle your toes into a carpet. Let your hands glide over different kinds of fabric, or hold your hands under a faucet while focusing on the sensation of water pouring over them.

4) Visualize the other person in a calming way

Sometimes, a conflict is truly a threat to you. The other person may be screaming, throwing things, or attempting to harm you physically. In these circumstances, it’s crucial to leave as soon as you can safely.

Emotional flooding, however, can arise in situations that don’t involve a true threat. You tense up, become fearful, or feel a rush of rage. Your brain activates a fight-or-flight response.

But the other person isn’t truly threatening you. They may be angry or disappointed, but they aren’t endangering you.

One way to remind yourself that you aren’t currently in danger is to visualize the other person in a calming way. Let’s say you’re arguing with your best friend. At the moment, they’re upsetting you.

But try to picture them as they are in other moments during your friendship. Call to mind what they look like when they’re laughing.

Bring up a memory of a time they made you soup when you were sick or hugged you when you were distraught.

Along with reducing perceived threat levels, visualizations help remind you that an argument is temporary. Relationships often do bounce back from arguments, especially when the bond is strong and there’s a history of shared kindness and trust.

Visualizing the other person in peaceful moments gives you perspective about the entirety of your relationship.

What if you’re arguing with someone you aren’t close to? For example, your emotional flooding may take place at work as you interact with your angry boss or an obnoxious colleague.

Assuming you won’t burst into inappropriate laughter, you can try picturing them as a young child or visualizing what they look like napping at their desk. As a result, they may seem less threatening.

5) Don’t forget to move

Emotional flooding can make you feel as if your body is trapped in tension. Your jaws clamp, your knees lock, your fists clench, and your shoulders rise and freeze.

Along with feeling stuck emotionally, you feel that you can’t find any physical escape.

The way you move doesn’t have to be dramatic or obvious. You can open and close your hands and wiggle your toes.

You can roll your shoulders, tilt your head from side to side, and stretch your arms. It may also be helpful to tap a gentle rhythm on your chin, your cheek, or your inner arm.

In addition to simpler motions, you may want to jump into an exercise routine. Maybe the routine will consist of some calisthenics, like squats and jumping jacks, performed next to your desk.

Even if you’re just walking from one room to another inside your house, going for a brisk walk often has a calming effect.

Running and boxing are additional activities that can help you shake off the feeling that you’re stuck.

Along with stress relief, one of the benefits of motion is combining it with other calming tactics. As you move around, you can engage in visualization or count repetitions of exercises.

Another possibility is to recite a mantra in your mind. You can say, “I’m getting through this. It will pass.” Remind yourself that your flood of emotions isn’t permanent.

It isn’t a fixed part of you, and you shouldn’t underestimate your strength and ability to handle stress.

Can a gifted therapist help you too?

If you struggle with anxiety, depression, high-stress levels, relationship issues, or other specific challenges, one-on-one support from a therapist can help a lot.

You don’t need to go through this alone. There’s no shame in getting help!

Thousands of people get tailor-made support from a kind, empathetic, helpful therapist when faced with difficult life situations.

I recommend BetterHelp, which is a sponsor of Personality Unleashed.

It’s private, affordable, and takes place in the comfort of your own home.

Plus, you can talk to your therapist however you feel comfortable, whether through video, phone, or messaging.

Are you ready to break the negativity cycle?

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